May 10, 2012:
RAP replaces RUC:
NCEP has replaced the RUC model with the RAP model. I am working
on making the appropriate BLIPMAP alterations, the primary focus being
on needed operational changes - references to RUC in webpages which do
not actually affect forecasts will likely remain for awhile.
Operational forecast problems should be reported on the BLIPMAP
October 11, 2011:
I currently plan to fund and administer BLIPMAPs indefinitely, with
all BLIPMAPs remaining freely available to any registered user,
but will do little, if any, further development. To reduce costs
to a sustainable level, I am planning to replace my dedicated server
with a shared server and do the processing on my personal
computer. Like much else, that switchover has been pending for
some time - when it eventually does occur I will alert users via these
news items. . Hopefully it will go so smoothly that users will not
notice any difference.
April 1, 2010:
As of today, all BLIPMAPs will be freely available to any
registered user. I currently plan to fund and administer
BLIPMAPs through at least September of 2011. But I will
do little, if any, further development. For quite some time I
have been intending to send a situation report to subscribed users,
but I find that difficult to write so it has been indefinitely delayed
(like much else in my life these days). I will be changing text
on the website which refers to "subscription" use, but that will take
Options which continue BLIPMAPs without requiring my personal time may
emerge - for example, releasing my source code for others to run is a
definite possibility. I will take a six months respite, then see
what possibilities have emerged. While the planned scenario
would allow me to terminate BLIPMAPs in October 2010, I would want to
continue them (in "free" mode) until such time as alternate runs are
available. But the bottom line is that I must cease my active
involvement with BLIPMAPs: for the past three years, any sitting
beyond 2 hours per day has been painful and whereas I was willing to
accept some pain for this "labor of love" (hoping the condition was
ephemeral, with some diagnosis/solution eventually being found!), I am
no longer willing to program in pain and cannot spend the
computer-sitting time necessary to maintain the site.
As of the end of last month, "expiring" subscriptions are no longer
being terminated. Also, any new subscriptions are at only half
the previous rate and are valid only for 6 months. After March,
BLIPMAPs will be "free", with the proviso that no further development
will occur. Thus I will have made no further fiduciary
commitments to users beyond October 2010 and could terminate BLIPMAP
forecasts at that time (see my previous" news" item for an
Schleicher woes and site termination:
BLIPMAP users have likely noticed that there has been little updating
or improving of the website or forecasts for over a year. Some
of you are also aware that 16 months ago I had an (unexplained)
in-flight fire in the engine bay of my Schleicher ASH-26e. The
two events are related. Schleicher has now had my engine for
over one year, without any repair - Schliecher says they cannot
get parts from the engine manufacturer. I am mentioning this
here as a "public service announcement" for those considering
purchasing an ASH-26e, or any plane with that engine, but also because
this affects BLIPMAPs. I have not flown since that time and find
I have lost my love of soaring - for me, "soaring" now only means
problems and hassles, so I have turned to more enjoyable recreational
activities. This website has been a "labor of love" but that
love has died and I have no motivation for contributing any further
time to the soaring community - for me this website is just another
soaring-related "problem". I will address this issue in future
posts, but the bottom line is probable termination of this website a
year from now.
"Super" UniViewer now default:
I have now made the "super" univiewer, which has been under testing
for several months, the default univiewer. Note that it is
capable of "remembering" a multiple-BLIPMAP forecast sequence to be
automatically displayed at each startup, but on first use that is
non-existent so loading of a new BLIPMAP will be required. For
further info see the "Super" UniViewer revision posting
below. If you experience problems, please post its details to
the BLIPMAP forum
. The new features can be ignored/circumvented if desired,
but FWIW the old UniViewer is still available here.
Altered cloud composite BLIPMAPs:
suggestion on the forum, I have altered the cloud composite (Cu
and OD) BLIPMAPs to add stippling indicating the cloud formation
uncertainty. The "theoretical" criterion is that the cloud
potential be greater than 0 to form a cloud, but in reality there is
error in the prediction - accordingly stippling now indicates where
the cloud formation potential lies between -500 and +500.
Production of the new cloud composite BLIPMAPs will begin with
"Super" UniViewer revision:
Some revisions have been made to the test version of the
I hope to replace the present UniViewer with this "super" version in the near future.
The "super" UniViewer can:
(1) display a background topography/geography,
(2) zoom and pan the image
(3) "remember" a preferred image size, background, etc.
(4) "remember" a multiple-BLIPMAP forecast sequence to be automatically displayed at the next startup,
It also can display a new "USA" region, allowing
centering of forecasts over any location in the USA, though use of
that region will be somewhat slower than the regional regions and is
not suggested if the smaller regions meet your needs.
Please note that although zooming is allowed,
the resolution provided in the images is essentially that of the model
grid points - presenting forecasts with a resolution much finer than
that provided by "equations of motion" model results is a "pot of gold
at the end of the rainbow" that I will not be chasing. For more
info on the added functions see the "UniViewer Notes" link on the
univiewer page. Any problems/comments should be made on the forum .
BLIPMAPs in an overlay display. This is NOT a "volunteer for
free" task - I expect to pay the going rate for these services and am
first soliciting here since I would prefer to recycle funds into the
soaring community. Knowldege of geoimaging would be a plus but
not necessary. Your work would be used both for my USA NAM/RUC
BLIPMAPs and RASP BLIPMAPs. If interested, please send your
details to me directly at
USA grid being created:
FYI I am working on creating a "USA" grid to provide seamless coverage
over the USA, with a BLIPMAP being displayed as an overlay over a
geographic/topographic map. More information is given in a forum
Maps of actual and model terrain:
Per user request, I have added plots of both actual and model
topography to the viewers and to the "index" webpages. The
actual topography map might be useful for identifying a location, as
is the geographic map, but I caution users against trying to make
their locating too precise as (1) inherent spatial fluctuations in
both the atmosphere and the model will prevent any exact 1:1 match
between reality and the forecast, and (2) model forecasts are based
upon model topography (for which I have also added a map using the
same coloring as for the actual topography, to facilitate
comparison). What one should be doing is looking at the forecast
pattern in an area of interest to gain insight into expected
conditions in that area.
Access problems on Sunday:
There were many user access problems yesterday, which were traced to a
user database corruption problem. I've now replaced that
database and access is back to normal.
monthly BLIPMAP usage statistics.
Geographic maps update:
After a sudden revelation, and two days of work, I am now producing
composite blipmaps which are congruent with the non-composite
blipmaps! As a consequence, the SkewT and mini-Blipspot PopUps
now work for the composite blipmaps.
Geographic maps now availables:
"Geographic maps" are now available on the forecast index webpages,
the regional viewers, and the univiewer. For the viewers, one
can "switch" or "swap" back and forth between a forecast and the
geographic map to better orient oneself.
RUC run changes:
The RUC runs started failing today. I traced the problem to a
re-arrangement of the NCEP RUC output file parameters and have made
the necessary changes, so RUC BLIPMAPs are again being produced.
However, I also found that RUC topography heights have been slightly
altered - the new values are being used in the calculations but the
plotted BLIPMAP terrain will continue to be the old terrain until I
can make the necessary changes (though I suspect the differences will
be so small as to not be noticeable).
Trigger temperature added to RUC miniBLIPSPOT:
As a result of a
Forum thread question I have added estimates of thermal "trigger"
times and temperatures to the RUC miniBLIPSPOT popups, obtained by
this depends upon the choice of a "thermal top" parameter and uses
linear interpolation over a 3 hour span, so the results are only
Firefox 2 warning:
Those who use the Firefox browser have likely gotten a popup
indicating that a new Version 2 is now available and requesting
permission to "upgrade" their current version. I suggest that
not be done as there has been occurrences of Version 2 not
properly storing/reading cookies, both at my site and others,
whereupon deletion of the existing cookie and download of a new one is
required to again get things working. Users already using
Version 2 should be on the lookout for cookie corruption
Wrong day RUC fixed:
Because of an error introduced when NCEP switched the RUC datafile
format, around March 19, the RUC BLIPMAPs have had a 50-50 chance of
being for the wrong day - so at times RUC could have been wildly
off. That has been fixed and a test of the data file internal
date has been added to prevent such a problems in the future.
Details can be found on DrJack
To allow "composite" plotting of archived data I must alter the method
used to archive datafiles, so archived plots will be unavailable
until further notice.
RUC BL winds corrected:
I thought of a quick kludge which would fix the RUC wind calculations, so they
should now be correct..
RUC BL winds erroneous:
The RUC wind calculations are currently in error and should be
disregarded until further notice. For more information see my
NAM access restored:
NAM access has been restored, processing is underway for all times.
NAM access down again:
NAM access has been interrupted again. I am trying to find out what
is going on.
NAM access restored:
NAM access was restored today. New forecasts are currently
being computed but it will take awhile to get forecasts for all days completed.
NAM access down:
Due to a changeover in the access server, NAM
files are not available at the present time so NAM BLIPMAPs
will be unavailable for an unknown period.
Jan 1, 2007:
Erroneous subscription expiry emails:
With the start of the new year, my automatic subscription expiration
program incorrectly sent out "expiration" emails to everybody on
the DrJack subscription list. I sent out a correction notice
last night to all subscribers, hoping to avoid unnecessary
consternation and unnecessary emails sent to me, but in in case you
missed that notice be advised that your subscription status is
unchanged. It's a mess I hope to sort out in detail today.
San Francisco HG/PG talk:
Slides from a talk on future BLIPMAP forecasts (that I presented to
Bay Area HG/PG Summit and USHPA board members) can be viewed here.
NAM vs RUC comparisons:
There have been significant changes to both the NAM (ETA) and RUC
models over the past month, so I have resumed monthly plotting of the
difference between NAM and RUC parameter predictions. Results
for last month can be viewed at the NAM-RUC
Monthly Difference Viewer. You can see if these biases agree
with your personal experience. I was particularly amazed by the
large difference in sfc. dew point temperature predictions between the
two models for Northern California.
I've added plots of the along-track variation of Thermal Climb Rate,
Tail Wind, Thermalling Percentage, and Optimal Ground Speed to the
"integrated track predictions" described in the previous news item.
Integrated track predictions:
I've created a program to provide an "integrated flight average" of
forecast meteorological conditions over a specified flight
track. In addtion to spatial averages over the track, it
computes an "optimal flight" speed and time using "speed to fly" theory,
allowing evaluation of "flight averaged" forecast thermals and wind
over a for a user-specified glider type. The program can be
accessed by subscribed users in two ways: (1) via the regional
viewers, which use the mouse to interactively set track
turnpoints, and (2) via a browser bookmark which utiilzes user-stored
turnpoints and glider data. There are many simplifications and
caveats inherent in this method - further information is provided in
Average Soaring Forecasts webpage. This is still
experimental, so bugs can be expected and should be reported to the
Improved Forecast Availability Information:
For those waiting for the next forecast update and wanting to know
when that should appear, I've improved the Forecast Availability
webpages by adding tables giving approximate update times and the most
current update times. Links to that webpage are on many forecast
and viewer webpages for easy access. The page updates
automatically every 5 minutes so you can just leave it on your browser
and check periodically to determine the latest status - when a new
forecast appears its update time will change color to indicate it's
now the latest update. I had not been looking too closely at
availability times and was a bit surprised to find that for the same
forecast period RUC forecasts are available up to 1 hour before NAM
(old ETA) forecasts - I had not realized the difference that
large. So whatever other differences there are, RUC forecasts
are more timely.
Side-by-side forecast comparisons:
I encourage users to consider and compare both RUC and NAM forecasts,
since that provides an indication of forecast reliability. To
aid that, I have created a "2 Viewer" which simultaneously displays
two forecasts side-by-side. It doesn't have all the bells and
whistles of the other viewers, but it's very useful for evaluating RUC
vs NAM differences since a single click displays forecasts from both
models for a selected day, time, and parameter. The 2Viewer can
be found at the BLIPMAP forecast
comparison viewer webpage. Later: I've been told that
this viewer does not work with some Microsoft browsers, due to their
RUC changes implemented by NCEP:
Today NCEP implemented RUC model changes touted as being the "most
important set of changes to the RUC since June 2005". I looked
over the change
list and saw nothing suggesting an obvious dramatic effect on
soaring forecasts. They do say that relative humidity forecasts
will be improved, and those who read the Forum are aware that the RUC
forecasts generally seem drier than reality, but the specifics I saw
applied only to coastal regions. So at this point I expect
biases to remain similar to the previous ones, but users should be on
the lookout for possible bias changes, particularly in humidity/cloud
Cloud composite plots improved: I've found that the
Cu and OD Cloud composite plots (e.g. "Cumulus Cloudbase for Cu
Potential > 0") were often missing small regions where the potential
was in fact greater than zero. This resulted from an inherent
deficiency in the plotting sofware, so I've changed to a new
"raster-style" plot for those parameters to ensure that all locations
with a positive potential will be displayed. Thanks to David
Anisman for finding and reporting this problem in the forum.
BLIPMAP error correction:
The computation of maximum BL relative
humidity was found to be incorrect for both NAM and RUC BLIPMAPs (though not grievously so). That should be fixed
in this evening's run.
I've now converted webpages and directories from "ETA" to "NAM".
For those using bookmarks or cookieless access methods which include
an "ETA", I have tried to keep everything working for you but cannot
guarantee that - so if you encounter a problem, first try replacing
the "ETA" in the URL you are using with "NAM" as that might fix it
(but in any case it would be a good idea to replace such
bookmarks). I also have viewer popups and archives
working. The terrain overlay on NAM BLIPMAPs now represents the
new NAM topography, which differs slightly from ETA topography.
I've reached the point where you can notify me via the Forum if
something is not working, or if you find a place where ETA has not
been replaced by NAM, and I will fix it.
Behold the NAM:
I now have NAM forecasts available on "index" and viewer
webpages. Currently you will see "ETA" webpages and directories
which actually provide "NAM" results (note the BLIPMAP images have
"NAM" in the title). I've now begun the massive chore of editing
and renaming all my "ETA" webpages.
The ETA is dead - long live the NAM! This morning NCEP
operations retired the venerable ETA model and replaced it with a new
"NAM" model ("North American Mesoscale") which uses "WRF-NMM"
("Weather Research and Forecasting - Non-hydrostatic Mesoscale Model") coding, as previewed in my Mar 21
news item. There are critical changes which will break my
ETA-processing routines, so no NAM forecasts will be
available until I can make alterations, which I am working on
full-time. I will post an announcement here when I get the NAM
forecasts minimally working. Following that there will need to
be additional, more extensive, website alterations.
Operationally NAM is identical to ETA in terms of
forecast period, grid spacing, etc., but many underlying modeling
assumptions are somewhat different - all of which NCEP feels are
improvements over what was used by ETA. I'm optimistic because
I've always been skeptical of the unique vertical coordinate system
ETA used, producing degraded vertical resolution over higher terrain
as compared to other models and likely more horizontal filtering than
desirable - and WRF-NMM does not have that deficiency. So this
change has the potential to bring forecast improvement, but
only time will tell. The effect of these changes can't be
predicted a priori - I'd first assume NAM biases to be similar to
those of ETA, but then be on the lookout for bias differences from
those of ETA.
Name Clarification: if you have previously been using
a weather product labeled "NAM" on the web you have been really
been using ETA results, i.e. that "NAM" was only a NCEP name
change. To avoid confusion I had decided to delay that name
change for my products, since I knew an actual model change was
scheduled for later and thought it more straightforward to change the
product name when the underlying model changed. All post-June20
"NAM" results, both here and on the web, are produced by the newly
implemented WRF-NMM model coding. BTW I have seen NWS forecaster
discussions which use "NAM", "WRF" and "NMM" - confusing since they all mean the
same thing, current NAM model results.
DrJack #1 on Google:
For entertainment, today I did a Google search on "Dr Jack" and to my
amusement found my website the #1 listing!? Among those trailing
were "Dr Jack" Kevorkian, who is certainly more infamous than I, and
"Dr Jack" Van Impe, an widespread evangelist. Years ago I had
done the same search and found myself well behind them - makes one
wonder how Google makes and changes its ratings, since I am sure many
more people are interested in them than in my website. Perhaps
it is because my home webpage URL contains "drjack" - I certainly
don't do anything to try to get a high Google rating. Anyway, I
offer this for your possible amusement also. Still, if trying to
locate my site using Google (or other search engine) I recommend
searching on "blipmap" since that is more unique and much more likely
to always be the #1 search result.
Improved forecast availability:
I have increased the priority of the more important forecast
times. The previous method, implemented when only RUC was being
processed, had been resulting in delayed processing of ETA "Current
Day" files by up to an hour when several download files were
simultaneously available. I've sophisticated the priority and
made some efficiency improvements so such delays will now not occur,
giving you a better chance of viewing a later forecast prior to
heading out to the field. There will also be a smaller
improvement in RUC CurrentDay availability. (Now CurrentDay
forecasts are always processed first, when available, and 18Z,21Z
forecasts are given priority within any given day.)
There were problems with this evening's runs which I think I have
fixed so have re-started those runs. Many "previous day" plots
were lost, but they can still be viewed using the archive
Experimental2 parameter change:
The "Experimental2" parameter is now the BL average moisture, to aid in
I removed some apparent fat from the cookieless access script, but
while I tested the result there is always the chance that it wasn't
really fat - so if you find your cookieless access has suddenly
broken, let me know via the DrJack Forum.
"Send Forgotten UserInfo" fixed:
Today I found that the "Send Forgotten UserInfo" feature has been
broken since March 18. If you had unsuccessfully tried to use it
since then, it should now work for you.
New BLIPSPOTs again available:
After a hiatus of nearly 2 years, I've decided to again start
producing new BLIPSPOTs for those who want them. For information
on requesting creation of a BLIPSPOT for your location, see
the BLIPSPOT creation webpage.
NAM replacing ETA:
Looking ahead, on June 13 NCEP will replace the ETA model forecasts
with those from a new model, the NMM variant of the WRF model.
This should be a good thing because the new model will have better
vertical resolution of the BL over higher terrain, which was always a
weakness of ETA and why I had recommended use of RUC for regions
with high surface elevations - but we shall have to await actual
forecasts before a true judgment of the change can be
made. Some parameterizations, etc. will change and thus
require re-evalutation of forecast accuracy. Note: the naming is
a bit confusing, since awhile ago NCEP changed what had been known as
the "ETA model forecasts" to a generic name, the "North American
Mesoscale (NAM) forecasts" so those who read NWS forecaster summaries
can already find references to NAM forecasts there - after June 13 the
"NAM" name will still be used, but the underlying forecast model will
have changed. For my forecast plots, at that time I will change
the BLIPMAP appelations from "ETA" to "NAM" to reflect the
change in forecast model.
Error of advance ETA forecasts:
I've occasionally wondered "how much does the ETA forecast one and two
days in advance (current+1 and current+2 days) differ from what is
actually predicted on the final (current) day", so finally did an
analysis to answer that question.
Potential Login Problems:
Back on Jan 3 I announced an alteration of the registration system
such that the logon UserID, password, and Email address were now case-INsensitive, to
make things easier for users. Yesterday a user found a problem
in what I had done, resulting in his (valid) password being
rejected. I think I have now fixed that problem but it took much
re-coding (over 40 line changes), so potentially could introduce
other problems. While I've done my own testing and will be
watching the log files for errors, please let me know if you encounter
a strange login problem.
Easier Cell Phone Access:
Since I received a forum comment about difficult cell phone access, I
have created some "mini" webpages to aid such access by minimizing
the screen size needed, simply providing links with minimal
text. You can read more about this on the cell
phone access webpage.
Plotting Problem Fixed:
I believe I have finally fixed the occasional cloud composite plot failures reported
back on Feb 25.
I've added several "composite" plots which combine forecasts from two
related parameters to simplify their evaluation. They are: (1)
B/S Ratio stippling over Thermal Updraft Velocity contours, to
indicate where strong thermals may be broken by wind shear, (2) Wind
Direction streamlines overlaying Wind Speed contours, and (3) Cu
Cloudbase and OvercastDevelopment Cloudbase contours plotted only
where such a cloudbase is theoretically expected. The plotting
package used is a new one so the image size differs and the composite
images do not overlay with the non-composite images and cannot
be used to obtain sounding profile or mini-blipspot popups in the
over to the new package, but that requires much more development work.
RASP Soaring Forecast Program:
For some months now I've been providing high-resolution (1-12km)
soaring forecasts for my local flying area. These differ from
ETA/RUC BLIPMAPs in that the prognostic time-stepping is done on a
local computer rather than at NCEP and so allows higher resolution to
be obtained. But the processing is very computer
intensive so I cannot provide such forecasts at many other
locations. Therefore I'm making the RASP program I use available
to anyone seriously interested in undertaking the effort of providing
better cross-country soaring weather predictions for their local
region (and who has the necessary computer processing resources and
expertise). These forecasts are most useful where soaring
conditions vary dramatically over short distances, as for complex
terrain, and my experience is that they are more accurate than RUC/ETA
BLIPMAPs in my local soaring area - but I would not expect them to be
more accurate over relatively flat regions where the increased
resolution will have little benefit (e.g. Kansas, much of Texas, etc). Further
information is available at the RASP
wiki. Examples can be viewed at the RASP webpage and an
example of non-DrJack operational RASP forecasts are Ian
Forbes' South African forecasts.
Jan 3, 2006:
In an effort to make everyone's life a little easier, I have altered
the registration system to make the logon UserID, password, and Email address
(which can be used instead of the UserID)
case-INsensitive, so you don't have to remember which letters you have
capitalized. I've tested it, but if you have difficulty logging
in that you did not have previously let me know and I will
I'd created a T-shirt for myself with
printed across it and when wearing it found others asking if they
could get one! The first one I gave away "off my back" but I
can't continue to do that, so to allow individual selection of shirt
style and size - and to avoid mailing/handling/payment hassles - I've
opened up a "store" at the place I got my shirts done. This is
for amusement, not to make $, so I opted to markup the
shirts by only $1. (For some strange reason ordering via the
store is actually significantly cheaper than when I've ordered for
myself individually, even though they use the same company!?)
These are individually printed with a full-color representation (not
limited color silk-screening). I then got carried away and created
some additional designs beyond my original - you can view the
samples and if you wish order a BLIPMAP T-shirt for yourself.
Thanks to Blairstown:
I enjoyed seeing the Blairstown (NJ) gliderport operations Saturday
and thank those whom I visited for their hospitality. This
spring I will put the RASP forecasts on an operational schedule and
look forward to hearing how Blairstown users (and others who fly the
Governor's Cup South Course) evaluate them.
Easier Logon Access:
For those registered/subscribed users who keep losing your cookies (on the web, that is),
I've now added a link to the Logon page at the top of the index and viewer webpages.
(Per an excellent forum suggestion from Jim Dobberfuhl.)
To allow comparison of model moisture predictions against actual
observational values, I have added the surface dew point temperature
as a new BLIPMAP variable (it had already been supplied in BLIPSPOT
reports). Also, I have changed the "Experimental" parameter to
be an estimate of the BL cloud cover percentage (so far I
don't have much confidence in it, but we shall see).
RUC terrain improvement:
The June 28 news item reported that I'd found that the RUC grid change
from 20km to 13km had not produced any improvement in terrain
resolution. This surprised me and, even more of a surprise, when
I asked the folks at FSL (now officially ESRL) about it they had
not realized this! So they have since worked on improving
the RUC terrain to match the grid resolution reduction and today that
improved topography was implemented in the NCEP production runs. In
recognition of this, I've altered the RUC BLIPMAP terrain overlay to
match the new topography - the improvement from the old 20km terrain
is not dramatic but does exist, for example the White Mts in the CA/NV
region now appear. So terrain-induced phenomena should now be
better predicted by RUC.
B/S now freely available:
I have made the "Buoyancy/Shear Ratio" parameter a "public" BLIPMAP
forecast available to all registered users, non-subscribers as well as
subscribers, since it indicates whether or not the fundamental "Thermal
Updraft Velocity" is a useful number for soaring flights.
Eventually I hope to produce a "composite" BLIPMAP
depicting both parameters in a single image.
Today NCEP implemented their announced transition to a 13km RUC - but
I now find that they are
only providing model output files subsampled at 20km instead of at the
full resolution (whereas previously they had always supplied the
full resolution). So my two weeks of full-time effort (as well
as time prior to that) spent preparing and testing processing changes
expected to be required by that transition, getting all my ducks lined
up so downtime to BLIPMAP users would be minimal, now turns out to be
unnecessary - and I am definitely bummed. Right now I need to
get away from all this S and will simply continue RUC BLIPMAP
production as before. Also, I will continue to use the
previous terrain overlay even though it is not identical to the new
topography because differences are minor since the
expected terrain improvement was not realized - a second
bummer! There should be some accuracy improvements, but users
will not see any obvious difference in the plots. I might later
consider increasing the domain size as previously announced, to allow
more overlap between regions, but for now things will continue as
before while I think things over.
Scheduled RUC model upgrade:
On June 28 NCEP will be upgrading the RUC model. There are
several improvements which should increase forecast accuracy, but
unfortunately I must report that the improvement in terrain features
expected from the increased grid resolution of 13km (from 20km) has
not been achieved -
I am pushing FSL to improve terrain resolution and expect that will
occur. Due to the resolution change all regional BLIPMAP
grids must be re-created. I had originally thought that BLIPMAP
production would be down for a week, with ancillary features such as
viewer pop-ups down for an additional 1-2 weeks. But since then
I have been working behind the scenes to upgrade the BLIPMAP code such
that much that was hard-wired is now computed so regional areas can be
more easily changed, and I now estimate that production will down for
only a day and ancillary features down for an additional 1-2 days,
assuming all goes as I have planned (and any future regional boundary
alterations will now be much more do-able).
Cookies now valid for 2 years:
Newly obtained cookies will now be valid for 2 years instead of the
previous 1 year. This is to prevent possible cookie expiration
problems, since a browser does not automatically tell the user when a
cookie exists but has expired and tracking down that information is
not easy. I'd suggest getting a new cookie (after first deleting
the old one) to avoid possible problems, using a registration
Region borders changing: I
will be changing the regional borders for RUC BLIPMAPs at the end of
the month, at the RUC switchover to 13km. Based on responses
received in the recent user survey, I decided to increase the regional
size by 20%, to allow a 10% overlap to each side. Please check
regional coverage maps and let me know if you think some
modification is warranted. Changes can be made now, but after
implementation it will be too late.
Summarized results from the Third annual User Survey are now available. My thanks to all who participated.
Convergence line simulation:
For those interested in convergence lines, I have placed animation from
a high-resolution (1.3km) model prediction of a convergence line
developing along a mountain range sideslope on-line.
There is also some discussion about it on the DrJack Forum.
RUC archives available: A RUC archive viewer is now
available for those who wish to look at RUC BLIPMAP forecasts after
they have been "aged" from the "previous day" links available on the
regular BLIPMAP forecast pages. An added bonus is the ability to
overlay flight traces by uploading an IGC file - however it does not
work for all IGC files. C'est la vie. If you experience a
problem you can report it to the DrJack Forum, but
I do not expect to spend time debugging it unless the problem and
solution are immediately apparent.
Apr 1: Annual April Fool's Day is in effect
Thermal Height Variability Change: I just discovered that
the "Thermal Height Variability" parameter had been using a change of
4 degC not the intended 4 degF. I've now corrected
that so the variability heights will now be significantly smaller.
UniViewer Problems: From the
server logs I see that malformed URLs are being produced by the
UniViewer for some users - but not for others. At this time I
have no solution other than to recommend use of the regional viewers
instead of the UniViewer if this is a problem for you.
RUC preferred over ETA: I
now generally recommend using RUC forecasts to evaluate the soaring
potential of the current day. This is based on: (1) NCEP's
switch to new ETA data files which have degraded vertical
resolution, (2) one researcher found that numerical techniques
used by the ETA result in their effective horizontal resolution being
more much coarser than their nominal 5km grid spacing and hence
comparable to the RUC 20km spacing, and (3) I've received more
pilot reports citing cases where RUC forecasts have proved more
accurate than ETA ones. But (1) and (2) are theoretically-based
preferences, i.e. not based upon model vs observation comparisions,
and differences in the internal workings of the models can make ETA
generally preferable to RUC for a specific location.
13 km RUC coming:
FYI a 13 km resolution RUC is expected to come on line at NCEP
sometime this summer. Besides better horizontal resolution it
includes additional assimilation of observational data. When that
occurs I will modify the BLIPMAP program to use that data as quickly
as I can.
What is DrJack up to now? Providing detailed BLIPMAPs for
two local soaring sites where pilots fly in complex terrain not well resolved
by the normal BLIPMAPs. If interested, you can check out the
predictions. If this is successful, the same methodology can be
used for other sites around the country (or world, for that matter).
ETA forecasts UP again:
Well it took the day, but I now think I have ETA BLIPMAPs up again.
ETA forecasts DOWN again:
There is an occasional fatal error in the new ETA processing which
crashes the program. I am investigating.
Modified ETA forecasts now
I have now fixed all problems with the new ETA
forecasts. The projection used for the new ETA data files is the
same as used for the RUC forecasts, so I have chosen to make the new
ETA BLIPMAP domains essentially identical to those of the RUC BLIPMAPs
to allow the different forecasts to more easily be compared.
NB: the data used for the new ETA forecasts is less precise the
the old data and thus forecasts accuracy has been degraded - so in
general I now recommend using the RUC forecasts to evaluate the
soaring potential of the current day.
ETA forecasts DOWN: Back on Nov 4 I announced that NCEP
planned to discontinue production of the ETA files used by BLIPMAP
processing on Dec 14 - but for whatever reason the files continued to
be produced beyond that date so ETA BLIPMAPs continued as usual.
But today the ordained shutoff has occurred and those files are no
longer available. I have switched to a new processing program I
developed in the interim, which uses different data files, but at
present the map overlays are not correct. I am working on the
WELCOME to the NEW website:
The changeover to the new server announced on Jan 17 has now been
accomplished. Since you are reading this, the DNS name
propagation has reached your location because you are now at the NEW
server. All forecasts should be available, but you may need to
get a new cookie (now sure about that, will have to see how it works
out). Give me a day to look for and solve any problems.
After that, if you find something broken and see nothing regarding it
in a news item or on the Forum, please post a message to the DrJack Forum to
alert me and to let others know that there is a problem which has
already been reported. As always, you can help me out by being
by making your report specific and detailed enough to be useful.
Server switchover to come:
The BLIPMAP processing and website is in the process of being changed
from one server to another, so this (old) site is essentially frozen
and I am now testing the new server. Richard Hanschu is handling
the transfer and is an experienced sysadmin so I expect things to go
smoothly and users should experience no problems - but I wanted to let
you know what is happening in case something should go
wrong. . When the time for the actual user changeover
comes, when the new DNS address is propagated over the web, that
immediate changeover will be announced here and an additional
"welcome" message will be posted on the new server to let you know
when that change has reached your browser and you are at the new site
(which except for that should look exactly like the old one).
Jan 1, 2005:
Have a Happy New (Soaring) Year !
ETA changes: Amazingly, I
have finished (so far as I now know) all changes needed to adapt the
processing program to the new ETA data files (the first time I can
recall such changes taking less time than expected), so will be
implementing the new version this week, just beating NCEP's Dec14
deadline. I also need to make additional changes outside the
processing program, which I will begin work on once the processing
itself seems to be ok. There may be minor problems and
unforeseen bugs - please do not report such problems until a later
news item indicates that I consider the switchover to be
Looking for Logos:
I'm looking for new logos to add to the randomly selected graphics
displayed in the upper right corner of the index and viewer webpages. If your soaring operation has
a logo and you'd like it displayed, send an image to
and if it's suitable I'll add it to my list.
I don't respond to ChoiceMail challenges: I recently
tried to respond to an email sent by someone who uses the ChoiceMail
"challenge/response" email anti-spam software. I hate spam and
try to aid the war against it, so I normally do respond to the
"challenge" email such systems send. But the one issued by
ChoiceMail goes too far in imposing burdens on the sender, in my
opinion, since it requires three different inputs: your
name (despite the fact that information is already provided in the
email), a reason (despite a Subject having already been provided), and
deciphering/inputting a noisy number sequence. I consider this
unnecessary overkill which unduly abuses the sender, particularly when
the email is primarily for the benefit of you and not for me.
All other challenge/response systems I know about are more reasonable,
requiring only a single input. I do not wish to jump through
those hoops, or to encourage use of ChoiceMail, so I will not be
responding to ChoiceMail challenges unless I need to get a message
through for my own personal reasons - so those using ChoiceMail should
not expect to receive an email reply from me unless they place my
address is on their acceptance (white) list. BTW that
company accepts email only from its registered users, as I found by
trying to send them a complaint message, my only means of
"complaining" is by refusing to submit to their system!
ETA update: I've been working on the new ETA
implementation, looking at the most critical issues first, and have
enough accomplished that I'm now confident that the change-over will
be successful and so have re-instated the ETA model as a new
ETA turbulence ahead: The
calmer waters I spoke of in my last message have suddenly become
turbulent, for I find that a new major BLIPMAP effort is now
needed. After a two week vacation, I returned home last week to
email from NCEP stating that the ETA files I download would no longer
be available after Dec 14. For awhile it appeared that this
would mean that ETA BLIPMAPs would have to die, but after several days
of work I concluded that passible subsitute files exist and there is
no obvious roadblock to their implementation. So ETA BLIPMAPs
should continue, but the needed program alterations are large and I do
not expect to get them completed prior to Dec. 14. After that
date, ETA BLIPMAPs will disappear for an indefinite period. For
that reason I will not allow any new ETA BLIPMAP subscription sign-ups
until I have some assurance that the new version will be workable.
Also, the new ETA forecasts will be somewhat degraded in quality due
to limiations inherent in the substitute data. Those interested
in more details can read
more details here.
Time to step down:
Improvements made this summer have now produced a robust operational
system which requires minimal minding. As announced on July 4,
the time has come to end my development efforts and put BLIPMAPs on
"auto-pilot" status. I do have a few additional things I plan to
work on, such as conducting an annual survey and likely making changes
based on that, but my active involvement will be minimal. I will
leave the DrJack Forum running for any who wish to use it as a
communications medium but expect to myself post only under special
circumstances - such as someone volunteering to augment/improve
BLIPMAPs or if there appear to be problems with the registration or
subscription systems No new BLIPSPOTs will be created. And
in keeping with this change in status, I have now halved the
subscription charges, which will be used to pay server and admin
costs. BLIPMAPs might still be improved in many ways, and I
myself have a list of uncompleted "to do" items. But for this
next year significant improvements would occur only if someone else
wants to themselves work on augmenting BLIPMAPs (though I would
provide such assistance as I can, including server access if
needed). Whether or not anyone would step forward is a question,
but I will be providing further information at a later date.
It is now time for me to rejuvenate and regain time for
myself and for flying. Frankly this past year has been a tough one for me in
many ways, so I am looking forward to calmer waters ahead. In
the coming year I expect any weather forecasting development work I do
to be local-region oriented - but the nation-wide BLIPMAP forecasts
will continue to help you with your soaring flights. The RUC and
ETA models should improve in accuracy as time goes by, particularly
through increased data assimilation, so the outlook is for BLIPMAP
forecasting accuracy to also improve (on average) - though probably
not as rapidly as we would like!
I very much want to thank those who have supported
BLIPMAPs over the last years - your kind words, and positive
criticisms, have been instrumental in helping create a "state of the
art" BLIPMAPs and in keeping me going through the low points.
One of my plans for next year is to visit and experience other soaring
locations, where I hope to meet some of you in person.
on summer operations and my future expectations for BLIPMAPs.
older news items which have now lost much relevance
All BLIPMAPs are freely available to registered users.
Registration (free) is needed for direct (no-nag-screen)
New users can
Currently registered users can
Logon (get new cookie) here
view registration (cookie) status here.
More info is available at the
Registration Information webpage.
many advantages to having one person's knowledge be shared and
available to others, so I expect most BLIPMAP issues to be handled through
and ask those who have a question or problem or experience which could
be of interest to others to post it there. This allows others to
comment on the matter if they have any personal experience and also
allows any response I make to be read by others. If you send me
an email, I will respond personally only if it's nature is not
appropriate for such posting - in other cases I will simply
reply with a request to post to the forum.
I only look at the webpages and maps that I use personally or that I
suspect might contain an error. If you notice a consistent
problem with either, please post a message on the